The selection of the chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC) has been considerably delayed with the three-member search committee dragging its feet without reaching any concrete conclusions.
The search committee has now sought an appointment with the human resources development (HRD) minister, Kapil Sibal, to seek some “unnecessary’’ clarifications regarding eligibility criteria of candidates in general and the age clause in particular.
Sources said that the reason for seeking clarification was that some candidates in the age range of 62-64 years also figured in the zone of consideration. The UGC Act, significantly, stipulates that the office of the UGC chairman shall be whole time and he/she shall “hold office for a term of five years or until he attains the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier’’.
Accordingly, the UGC chairman has to be appointed on a whole time basis and for the full term. The provision does not allow for interpretation knowingly or deliberately that a person could be appointed chairman for a period, which will not be one term of five years.
The appointment is, therefore, to be guided in that the identified incumbent should be able to serve five years in office and without exceeding the age of superannuation — 65 years. The stipulation in the advertisement given by the HRD ministry on this subject mentioned, “…nominees should be preferably below the age of 60 years’’. This appears to have also been guided by this principle. Non-adherence to this provision will tantamount to violation of the relevant stipulation in the UGC.
Curtailment of full term due to an intervening factor such as superannuation or some unforeseen reasons of exit from the position would be an exception and not a rule.
The HRD ministry’s decision in the appointment of Prof SS Mantha as the chairman, All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), made nearly a fortnight ago, supports the principle cited for the position of the UGC chairman.
The AICTE chairman has been appointed for a full term of three years (as per the provision of the AICTE Act) by the ministry notwithstanding the introduction of the legislation about the National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) in Parliament.
Sources said that attempt to get the age clause relaxed by the search committee could be to bring in some candidates who do not otherwise fulfil the criteria. Hectic lobbying is going on for this coveted position where the names of some vice chancellors who are facing an enquiry also figure.
The long list of aspirants has amongst the front-runners a former vice chancellor who was overlooked for a similar position for the Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University last year.